This week in science, our planet is clearly nearing its saturation point with world population levels reaching 8 billion now (India being the largest contributor). Meanwhile, outside the planet, NASA has finally succeeded in sending its lunar mission Artemis 1 to the moon and India’s Skyroot Aerospace has also managed to launch its first private rocket Vikram-S.
1- Vikram-S, India’s first privately-made rocket, successfully lifts-off
The Indian Space Research Organisation has been behind all of India’s space missions so far. On November 18, a new chapter was written with Hyderabad-based Skyroot Aerospace successfully sending its rocket Vikram-S up in the skies for a flight that lasted for nearly five minutes.
Launched from ISRO’s Sriharikota launch pad, the rocket is a part of Skyroot’s Mission Prarambh. This mission includes several other Vikram rockets that will be sent from the next year onwards. Friday’s liftoff was an exercise to test the basic technology that will be used in further flights by Skyroot.
The rocket was a sub-orbital vehicle meaning that it was meant only to go up in space and not orbit Earth. Reaching speeds higher than Mach 5, the rocket attained a peak altitude of 89.5 km.
2-NASA’s Mars lander InSight likely to die anytime soon
The robotic lander known as Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (AKA InSight) was launched on May 5, 2018. And since then, it has been exploring Mars for 3 years and 357 days. Now, InSight is running out of power.
As InSight’s official Twitter account states, a lot of dust has gathered in the rover’s solar panels. “I’m closer to the end here.” The tweet reads.
I’m getting close to the end here, due to dust gathering on my solar panels, making it hard to generate power. People often ask: don’t I have a way to dust myself off (wiper, blower, etc.)? It’s a fair question, and the short answer is this: (🧵) pic.twitter.com/fbFjj4AXf3— NASA InSight (@NASAInSight) November 10, 2022
The team behind InSight clarified that a “dust wiper” would have made the overall mission costlier and more complicated. Even though InSight’s life was estimated to be one Mars year (roughly the equivalent of one Earth year), it successfully traversed the Red Planet for double that period. The probe is also noted for collecting detailed data on Mars’s weather and three layers (crust, mantle, core). Before it totally dies, the team is trying its best to safely store all the collected data.
3-Artemis 1 takes off for the moon after multiple delays
First, there was a technical failure. Then, there was Hurricane Ian and the tropical storm Nicole. But finally on November 16, NASA could undertake a successful liftoff for its Artemis 1 mission that includes the Orion spacecraft and SLS rocket aimed for the moon.
The liftoff took place at 12.17 pm IST (1.47 am EST) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Even though the flight is uncrewed, mannequins with sensors are aboard the rocket to record vibration, acceleration, and radiation levels. With the liftoff successful, Orion aims to orbit the Moon before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean in December.
4- World population reaches 8 billion mark
The United Nations confirmed on November 15 that the world population has hit the 8 billion mark with India contributing to the largest share.
While India is currently the country with the second-highest population, it is estimated to surpass China by 2023. According to this year’s estimates by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), India added 177 million people with China’s contribution amounting to 73 million.
The UNFPA estimates also add that 68% of India’s population is between 15-64 years old in 2022, while people aged 65 and above amount to 7%.
Bonus science news- New study proves that cows get high on hemp (but will their milk make you high?)
Can cows get high? Yes, very much if their feed is mixed with hemp. This conclusion comes from a recent study by German researchers published in the journal Nature Food. While the study is quite detailed, one of the results was “Feeding industrial hemp can affect animal health”.
While cows can show signs of red eyes and drowsiness, they conclude that supplying cows with hemp in limited amounts can still keep the bovines healthy enough to provide expected quantities of milk. As for the cows that consumed feed made from cannabinoid-rich hemp leaves, flowers, and seeds, they consumed up to 86 times the amount of THC that’s required to get humans high.
THC aka tetrahydrocannabinol, as many would know is the psychoactive compound that is found in hemp and marijuana-related varieties of the cannabis plant (the THC is more potent in the latter than hemp). Instead, hemp flowers are rich in cannabidiol (CBD), the chemical relieving health issues such as anxiety, addiction, and insomnia.
Additionally, the cows who ate more hemp product also displayed slower breathing and heart rates, salivated more than normal, and most importantly, produced less milk. While the scientists are still unclear whether the milk of “high” cows will be potent enough to have an impact on humans, the chief aim behind their study is to push hemp as a cheap, easily available, and nutritious alternative to the usual animal feeds (given that hemp is given in specific dosages).